Reincarnation for Christians

Evidence from Early Christian and Jewish Mystical Traditions

John W. Sweeley

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ISBN: 978-1-57733-265-7, 294 pp., 6 x 9, paperback, $22.00

Reincarnation was an accepted belief by the great minds of antiquity. In Greece, Plato was influenced by earlier classical Greek philosophers such as Pythagoras, while reincarnation was both believed and taught by Jesus and many Church Fathers through the eighth century, as well as in Hebrew texts and mystical traditions throughout the Middle Ages.

In Reincarnation for Christians, Monsignor Sweeley proves that reincarnation was accepted by Jesus according to Holy Scripture, was accepted and taught by the Church Fathers as a doctrine of the faith, and is believed today by many Christians. Moreover, he makes clear why there is no conflict between the atonement of Jesus and Jesus as the redeemer of humanity, with the necessity of living many lives before we attain salvation.


"This is a book about Western concepts of Reincarnation, which assume that identity is lodged within a subjective essence or soul that persists after death. Dr. Sweeley makes an exhaustive and accurate survey of the history of 'soul' in Western esoteric and exoteric philosophy. He finds significant and convincing evidence of teaching about reincarnation in Jewish and Christian scriptures.

"He carefully documents the reasons for the persecution by the Roman Catholic Church of these teachings. He also documents the continuing presence of such teachings in Western thought and within both the Christian and the Jewish mystical traditions.

"His discussion of Kabbalistic and Theosophical teachings is exhaustive and accurate. He carefully documents arguments against a Doctrine of Reincarnation, but, in the end, his arguments for such teachings seem to this writer convincing.

"He goes on to incorporate modern psychological investigation (especially Jung) of Reincarnation and shows these findings confirm the esoteric doctrines about Reincarnation.

"I find Dr. Sweeley balanced, lucid, and also convincing. I believe anyone reading this book will find it useful to his/her spiritual practice and spiritual reflection.

"The book does not consider Eastern approaches to reincarnation, most especially Buddhism. Such teachings do not use the concept of a 'soul' to argue for what is termed 'rebirth,' but rather use a nuanced and sophisticated discussion of karma and/or conditioned intentionality to demonstrate the survival of personal identity after death.

"This lack in Dr. Sweeley’s book in no way undermines his argument, which is, after all, for a Christian concept of Reincarnation. Such a Christian argument for Reincarnation must depend, to remain consistent with the contiguity of Christian Teaching, on a Christian anthropology that uses 'soul' as a basic component for the understanding of human existence."

Rev. Canon James Willems, M.A., M.Div., Episcopal priest and a teacher of Buddhist meditation and Dharma


"Jack Sweeley has done it again! Reincarnation for Christians is a spellbinding and informative adventure into a subject that has long been extremely sensitive for Christianity. Rational and compelling, the esoteric values expressed here bring the followers of Christ into an arena already populated by millennia of other religious traditions." Rev. Thomas Gallub, Ph.D.


"Monsignor Jack Sweeley’s Reincarnation for Christians is a greatly detailed, in-depth look at reincarnation from the centuries Before the Common Era through today.

"As a believer in reincarnation, I was amazed at the information that literally packs the pages of Monsignor Sweeley’s book. As you will find, reincarnation is not just 'New Age' but has been a major belief in one form or another for thousands of years.

"Msgr. Sweeley’s Reincarnation for Christians, and the resources therein, are an invaluable tool for anyone who would like to expand their knowledge of reincarnation and its history."

Katy O. Ishee, author of Pieces of My Heart and Gemini’s Galaxy


"In this timely book about reincarnation and the Christian tradition, Monsignor Sweeley gives us an eye-opening look into an issue that has been long ignored by mainstream Christian churches. This thoughtful and well-researched book might well open up a whole new reality to the reader who needs something more than the simplistic explanations previously offered up on the topic of life after life." Most Rev. Alan R. Kemp, D.Min., CEO, The Ascension Alliance


"A good read – eye opening." Very Reverend Jesse Jose Santiago, North American Old Catholic Church


"'Reincarnation is not simply a fact, it is a necessity of the Divine Will.' How I enjoy seeing these words printed in scholarly and well-researched texts such as this latest of Msgr. Jack Sweeley. Although scholars may never agree on issues such as Reincarnation, that so many of the world's cultures and peoples from centuries passed have cherished and defended this belief remains a source of hope even for vacillating skeptics such as myself. Anyone who enjoys the hunt into scriptures and histories will find this book exhilarating and a great resource for any library." Rev. Mother Leslie A. Aguillard, RN, M.Div.


"It was a rewarding pleasure to find this quality of research and insight surface in the Judeo-Christian community addressing this complex and necessary subject. When I first began to open up the Christian Mysteries, working in decoding scripture and exploring the 'how' and 'why' of my other lives, I discovered many answers to questions never addressed or improperly answered by the Church. During that time, I would have been pleased to have had the resource Monsignor Sweeley’s study provides. Now, it serves to fill in a number of holes in understanding I had not been aware of. 'Well done, Jack!'" Commander William Buehler, USN (Ret), Minister: "Sanctuary of Machenim Groves" (Ascension-Alliance)


"Having read previous works by Jack, I was expecting both scholarly excellence and insight. Both are in abundance here. Also present is an appeal to the reader’s own ‘horse sense’ because as you read, Jack appeals to your own sensibilities. A wise man once said, 'Once you encounter the truth, you must either accept it or deny it, but you can never go back to previous un-awareness.' In this book, Monsignor Jack Sweeley will take you to the truth." Rebecca Ann Taylor, VCU, Creative Writing and Literature, Music Minister – The Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch, (Seminarian – The Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch)


"Msgr. Jack Sweeley has amassed an enormous collection of information about the belief called reincarnation. He includes evidence in support of reincarnation from the Christian Scriptures as well as from the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Library. He cites and quotes notables from all walks of life and periods of history who have shared a belief in reincarnation. He then addresses the logic and morality of reincarnation to answer long-standing theological questions and disputes. Finally, Msgr. Sweeley shows a genius for correlating many diverse thought systems into agreement with the belief in reincarnation. Few authors share Msgr. Sweeley’s ability to find such corollaries and make sense of them in ways that are easy for the average reader to understand." Bishop Bernie O. Finch, D.C., EMD, DD


"Reincarnation for Christians is written for everyone. Monsignor John Sweeley is a historian, a theologian, and above all, an educator. In this book Sweeley expertly interweaves history, religion, and psychology, explaining each along the way. Because of this, those new to the topic will understand it, and more knowledgeable readers will gain additional insight. Throughout the book, Sweeley explains what has always been, what has been hidden, and what we can bring back into our lives for today … and for tomorrow." Bishop Linda Rounds-Nichols, MSE, MA, M.Div., D.Div. Ph.D Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch; Dean, Sophia Divinity School


"Despite a lifetime of private Catholic education, I found myself spiritually bankrupt in midlife. Among many counter-intuitive Catholic dogmas, I could not accept a loving God sending its creations to everlasting hell for making bad life-choices. Instead, divine love would give us another chance, or even many chances, at redemption. Slowly but surely, the idea of Reincarnation made sense to me because it answered so many other spiritual questions as well.

"Msg. Sweeley’s brilliantly researched and comprehensive treatment of the Judeo-Christian roots of Reincarnation will change your entire perspective on the subject. If you only considered Reincarnation casually, or if you are on the fence about Reincarnation, this text will push you over the edge and joyfully expand your spiritual horizons. Most importantly, you will come away a believer, because a loving God gives his prodigal sons and daughters many opportunities to return home!"

K. Michael Murphy, M.A., DDS


"Monsignor Jack Sweeley has written a phenomenally well researched presentation on the subject of reincarnation within the context of Christianity through the centuries in the Western world. He provides ample support of the belief in reincarnation reflected as early as the Church Fathers in Christianity who were free to teach it liberally during the first four centuries.

"Once again, in these powerfully transformative times, many in the Western world are accepting this doctrine, and others are eager to know more about the Christian church's position on this subject.

"It is evident that Monsignor Sweeley poured his soul's love, devotion, and energy into bringing forth this important work to offer much food for thought to anyone eager to explore the subject of reincarnation.

"He deserves to be congratulated on this major contribution, and I heartily endorse his book and pray that it will extend to a large readership."

Sri Swami Shankarananda Giri, Divine Life Church, Baltimore, MD

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Institutional Christianity’s Failure to Meet the Needs of the Faithful
Christian Dogma v. Jesus’ Promise of Resurrection

Chapter 2: New Age Religions
General Beliefs, Theologies of New Age Religion, Egyptian and Greek Theosophy, Neo-Platonism

Chapter 3: New Age Religion
Classical Theosophy, Modern Theosophy, Catholic Theosophy

Chapter 4: Jewish Mysticism - Part One
History and Development of Kabbalah, Kabbalistic Understanding of God, Sefirot and Divine Feminine, and the Human Soul in Kabbalah

Chapter 5: Jewish Mysticism - Part Two
Gematria, Medieval to Modern Kabbalah, Reincarnation in Kabbalah

Chapter 6: Metempsychosis in Christianity from Jesus to the Seventh Century
New Testament, Church Fathers, Jesus as Reincarnated Being

Chapter 7: Metempsychosis in Literature
Greeks, Gnostics, Past Lives, Deja Vu

Chapter 8: Continuing Incarnation:
Resurrection and Reincarnation as Jungian Archetypes, A Conversation Between John W. Sweeley and Carl Jung

Epilogue: Close Encounters of the RSO Kind, Dream-Memories, John Recognizes Jesus in Utero

About the Author


Why are people surprised to hear that so many notables of the human experience believed in reincarnation? The answer is that most Americans are ensconced in Christianity, but if not ensconced themselves, have been inundated with the Christian world-view all of their lives. That said, the understanding of what it means to be “Christian” to most people is a highly truncated understanding that only includes dogmatically laden versions of Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxis.

However, it is these very versions of dogma, doctrine, and faith beliefs that are self-limiting and soul numbing because they only reflect one side of the history and practice of Christian beliefs, that is, the exoteric side.

The other side of the history of Christian beliefs and practice is esoteric and mystical and includes the fact that reincarnation was both believed and taught by Jesus and many of the Church Fathers through the eighth century. However, Institutional Christianity felt threatened by the esoteric and mystical because it was introduced from the East and crystallized into mystical schools. This occurred at the same time Western Christianity was building its framework on the hierarchy of bishops, and the authority of bishops was predicated on dogma arranged in neat stacking boxes the bishops created with the primary stacking box related to Jesus being the Atonement.

It is in the dogma of the Atonement that we find Jesus dying on the Cross to atone for the sin of all humanity. Thus, according to this dogma, it is his death and subsequent resurrection that brings eternal salvation to all humanity at the end of our present life.

It is obvious that a narrow understanding of the dogma of the Atonement presumes each of us has only one human life after which, if we have lived according to Institutional Christianity’s dogmas, doctrines, and faith beliefs, we will be granted salvation and ascend to heaven. While that is a nice story, it is far from credible, which is why Institutional Christianity from the time of its inception felt threatened by all things esoteric and mystical, especially reincarnation.

However, it was not until the Second Council of Constantinople, also known as the Fifth Ecumenical Council of the Church (553), that Institutional Christianity had the power to formally condemn reincarnation and make that condemnation binding on all of Western Christianity. Since then, Institutional Christianity has sought to destroy any documentable evidence that until that time reincarnation was widely accepted as a fact of both life and death.

So, why did the Institutional Church try to destroy belief in reincarnation as a part of the Christian experience? It did so for two reasons. First, reincarnation is incompatible with the Church’s narrow understanding of the Atonement of Jesus. Secondly, the Church feared that people who believe in reincarnation would not be afraid of its thundering pronouncements of everlasting damnation and Hell if they did not obey its dogmas, doctrines, and faith beliefs created by it used as mechanisms to control every aspect of people’s lives both religious and secular.

Blue Dolphin Publishing, 2013

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